Saturday, February 05, 2005

Better and Better

A great guy from church has GIVEN me a mountain bike, and its a good one, too. Of course, her refused any money or even to let me give it back to him when we leave. Praise God, and thank Ricky.
We'll be in Italy from Feb 14 to 17. We should have internet at the house by Feb 10th so using email, etc. will become much easier.

And I'm really considering buying a cheap car... yikes!

Thursday, February 03, 2005


Our bank cards came in today and I've already applied for broadband internet at the house. When we get it blogging will be more frequent and better.

Today Mary, Helen and I will be having tea with the principal (director) of the Christian College where I am teaching. How English of us. I usually have coffee and a bunch of cookies (biscuits).

Next week is week 5, then Readings Week, aka one week vacation.

Blog you very much...

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Gotta get back in time...

In many ways, our little stint here in the UK is like going back in time, not because the English are behind America (in most ways there not, in some ways they're ahead!), but because of the way we are going about it.

Reasons why it (sometimes) feels I've been warped back to 1955:

1. I walk alot, to most everywhere. Today's America is too spread out, lacks public transportation, has cheap gas, takes no care for pedestrians, etc., so that walking is not convenient nor necessary.

2. We buy our food and other stuff from small shops within walking distance of our house. Safeway and the like are mostly like American supermarkets, but tend to be smaller. There is no one place near our house that has everything we need (aka Wal-Mart). Of course, we're going to ASDA on Friday, the Wal-Mart owned biz here.

3. Our little black and white TV. As I've explained in earlier posts, we might be the only people over here who use a B&W TV, but its much cheaper on the TV tax.

4. Our house is over 100 years old... our entire block is... our entire neighborhood is. In fact, 100 years old is just getting broken in over here. I know people who've lived in 300 year old houses (and they weren't historic places).

5. The prices look like American prices from years ago. Let me explain. A candy bar might cost 30 pence or so. There was a time, in my younger years, when you could get a candy bar for 30 cents in America. So I say the price LOOKS like it did years ago. Bear in mind, 30 pence is about 55 cents or so (about what it costs in America now), and no candy bar would have cost 30 cents in 1955. I think you could buy a car for that in 1955. Of course, that was half a years income. Anyway... the numbers in the prices look like they're from 1988 America.

6. We have one telephone, one TV, and very little square footage. Admittedly, there is another phone jack upstairs, but we're too cheap to buy a phone that we'd have to leave over here in 6 months (phones are different in the UK). And the house is big enough for us (mostly because we left 99.86% of our stuff in America).

7. Its cold alot. It was probably cold alot in 1955.

8. Mary cooks from scratch. Why? Because its cheaper. There was a time when most Americans (and Brits) thought like that, but now most people would rather have the time and convenience than the money. Since she has time and we don't want to spend the money, Mary is learning to prepare meals that most of her contemporaries would never attempt.

9. Our health insurance, for all three of us, is only $50 a month. Its a well-known fact that the UK has free universal health care, but not for folks like us who will only be here 6 months. However, since there is not much competition in the medical field, prices are pretty reasonable (compared to the ridiculous costs in the U.S.). So we got insurance for about a 5th of what we pay in the U.S., and that is even with the skewed exchange rate. Don't get me wrong... I'm not convinced that America needs to use the UK model of healthcare. Here are a couple of reasons I can think of: (1) Because UK doctors make about 1/3 what American doctors do, its not as difficult to be a doctor over here and many of the brightest people go into more lucrative fields. (2) The waiting lists. When I say government run healthcare, I mean government run. Example: Say you need non-emergent hip surgery. Because there are only a few hospitals which perform that procedure in the UK, you get put on a waiting list for 6 months. Of course, you can probably manage with a little pain and plenty of medication, and then get your surgery. Why the wait? Imagine you are a surgeon, and have 4 surgeries scheduled in one day. However, the third surgery takes longer than expected and you don't finish until 4:00 pm. You go home at 5 pm, and the next surgery will take 1 1/2 hours. What do you do? I suspect that, because you will make the same amount of money whether you stay late an perform the surgery or you make the next patient wait until the next day, you opt for getting home on time. In America, you would probably perform the surgery taking solace in the fact that you just made $5k more. Thus, in the UK, everyone gets bumped back for this reason and that, and a long waiting list is not uncommon for non-emergencies. On the other hand... research has shown that the Brits live just as long as the Americans. Oh wait, I was writing about 1955, not the infernal medical system...

To conclude, sometimes I feel like Michael J. Fox in the suped-up Delorean. I hear you can get a flux-capacitor on Ebay pretty cheap these days.

Monday, January 31, 2005


I always wondered how Europeans did symbols like £ and € without much trouble... its because their keyboards have those keys on them. Novel.

Wisdom on waiting for and riding the bus... This is the kind of stuff that most big city people probably know, but new to me. In fact, the largest city I've ever lived in until now was Auburn, AL (about 45k or so now, but smaller when I moved there in 1992).

  • An empty bus stop is not a blessing... You might want the quiet time, but what you don't want is to have to wait because you obviously just missed the bus by a minute or so.
  • The temptation for me to begin walking ahead to the next bus stop (usually 1/4 mile or so) because I am tired of waiting is strong and absurd. After all, I will only (a) miss the bus while I am in transit, or (b) catch the bus and arrive at the exact same time I would've had I waited.
  • People will always choose an empty seat rather than sit by a stranger.
  • You see all kinds of people on buses.
  • 95% of people don't want to talk... they just want to sit and ride.
  • Most bus drivers wouldn't care if you flashed a playing card at them... they'll let you on. Most regular riders buy bus passes and show them, but I have a feeling that many of them are fibbing.
  • Bus drivers come in all races, religions, ages, and sizes but not genders. I've yet to see a female one here.
  • When I read on the bus, I get nauseated.
  • Its cool to sit on the top deck. I relate this to the cool side of Sonic because most of the teens go straight up.
  • In the UK, instead of school buses, the kids use public buses. This means that, in the morning, its like I'm in 7th grade all over again and can't wait until I am old enough to drive.

That's enough for now. When we move to Murfreesboro, it will be the biggest American city we've lived in, but nothing compared to the over 1 million here in Birmingham, England.

In other news, a kind brother at church has offered to GIVE me his mountain bike!!! He's bringing it today or tomorrow. So I might be riding the bus much less now.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

The more I think about it

I've spent alot of time thinking about where we are right now. Britain is an expensive place to live, but over the past 5 years housing prices have soared, placing first-time home buyers at a 29 year low, and pushing rents up. Fortunately for us, Birmingham is one of the few areas we can afford to live in (or will allow ourselves to afford without spending most of our savings).

We live in a working class city without any major attractions. Don't get me wrong, Birmingham is the 2nd largest city in the UK and has plenty of points of interest, but most don't compare to Stonehenge or Oxford, etc.. But we are centrally located, only 2 hours from London, the same to Oxford, less than an hour to Stratford-upon-Avon (Shakespeare's old stomping grounds), 2-3 hours to Stonehenge, so we will have to the opportunity to take some of those places in. We also plan to visit Edinburgh sometime, maybe Dublin, and we are most likely going to Italy around Valentine's Day (£30 pounds each, roundtrip from London to Turin and a free place to stay with friends of Mary's family!).

And in other news... if you were afraid that the Scottish are losing their accents, the preacher at our church is a good argument against such a notion. He has the thickest brogue I've ever heard.

And it looks like our debit cards were lost in the post, I mean mail, so we have to order new ones tomorrow... so it will be February10th or so before we can get internet at the house. Why is this so hard?